The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground: (part 2) Cardiff City and the Eponymous Stadium

Pete Sixsmith, as was

John McCormick writes: after 1971-2 it was another 30 years before I returned to Cardiff. This time I drove there and stayed in decent hotels (you know, the kind with heating and showers). Cardiff had changed from the solemn, somnolent city I remembered. Now it was full of partygoers engaging in drunkenness and sin.

But it wasn’t all improvement. There were yuppies, and Ninian Park, despite refurbishment, was showing its age.

It took another few years for City to get their new venue, as Pete Sixsmith relates in part two of Cardiff’s “first time ever I saw your ground…”

Almost 41 years on from my inaugural visit to Ninian Park, I pitched up in the Welsh cyfalaf as we played City in a Premier League game at the new, prosaically named Cardiff City Stadium. Both sides were kicking around the bottom of the league, with Cardiff having recently relieved manager Malky McKay of his duties and Gus Poyet having some serious problems in selecting a decent side from the rubbish that Roberto de Fanti had left at the club.
We had spent most of that season at the bottom of the league after a summer of recruitment that could best be described as “eclectic.” De Fanti, not one of Ellis Short’s greatest appointments, had been placed in charge of recruitment and had bequeathed Paolo Di Canio (see previous comment about De Fanti) players who were, to put it mildly, useless.

Some of them played at Cardiff. Top marks if you remember Ondrej Celutska or Mobidi Diakite. Extra top marks if you can recall El Hadji-Ba. Throw in Andrea Dossena and his appalling tackle at Hull City, Cabral, who played a handful of games at the start of the season and Jozy Altidore, whose Sunderland career is even less distinguished than that of James Vaughan.

 Cabral  Celutska  Diakite   El Hadji Ba

Can you name the players?

Print out the page, write the names in the spaces below each picture, check the answers when I put them up before kick-off on Saturday and then throw the lot out.

City had also wasted money on the likes of Andreas Cornelius, Nicky Maynard and Peter Odemwingie so on the 28th December 2013, two desperate sides met on a cold evening in Caerdyyd, both fairly desperate for points.

We had been on a reasonable run, having gone three games unbeaten and having kept a clean sheet in all three. Draws at West Ham, at home to Norwich and then a mind blowing win at Goodison, courtesy of a 25th minute penalty from Sung-Yeung Ki (what an asset he would be now) awarded for a foul on himself by Tim Howard who was promptly sent off by Lee Probert.

This is what I wrote about the game in Tales From The Red and Whites Volume 1  which is available from all good booksellers and a few bad ones;

“I drove to this one, breaking the journey in Tamworth and arriving in Cardiff at lunchtime, ready for a 5.30 kick off. I like Cardiff. It has a good feel about it and is compact. The hotel was in the city centre and was next to a splendid Brains pub. Even the Wetherspoons was a decent place to drink, being an old theatre with the flies still intact.
The new stadium is close to Ninian Park, a ground which had a terrible reputation for violence in the 70s and 80s. I remember a particularly unpleasant afternoon in 1980 where stones, bricks, dead sheep and iron bars were thrown at the thousands of Sunderland fans crammed into the Grange End for an end of season game which we drew thanks to a Pop Robson equaliser.

The first incarnation. © Tata Steel

But this is the 21st Century and all that has gone (apart from the odd outbreak of horse punching at The Sports Direct) and the City fans were open and friendly as we walked out along the mean streets of Cardiff to the ground and were just as good on the way back even though we had nicked a point from them in the last few minutes.
Roberge and Diakite, who had done so well in the win at Everton, struggled in this one. Jordon Mutch (a thoroughly unpleasant player) had put City ahead in the sixth minute and Vito Mannone had performed heroics in keeping the score down. Altidore missed an easy chance to level and when Fraizer Campbell made it two just before the hour, desperate measures were called for.
This was probably the most important game of Poyet’s season. Had we lost, we were really struggling so he gambled, replaced the peripheral Borini with Fletcher and yanked Larsson and Cattermole off and sent on Craig Gardner and Jack Colback, Fletcher got us back into it and with a full five minutes of added time played, Colback forced a shot over the line to level. A point against the odds and most importantly, a point against a relegation rival.
Drinks were taken post match and the journey home through the Cotswolds and Northamptonshire – stopping off to take in Coventry City v Oldham Athletic at Northampton Town’s Sixfield Stadium –was lovely. An overnight stay at the wonderful Nelson and Railway in Kimberley was the icing on the cake. Great beer, great room and a great breakfast made this one of the best away trips of the year.”

The teams were;

Vito Mannone; Phil Bardsley, Mobito Diakite, Valentin Roberge, Andrea Dossena; Emmanuelle Giaccherini, Lee Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Seung-Yeung Ki; Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore. Subs; Jordan Pickford, Ondrej Celutska, Jack Colback (for Cattermole 76), Cabral, El Hadji-Ba, Craig Gardner (for Larsson 76), Stephen Fletcher (for Borini 58)

David Marshall; Kevin TheophileCatherine, Steven Caulker, Ben Turner, Declan John; Craig Noone, Gary Medel, Bo-Kyung Kim, Jordon Mutch; Fraizer Campbell, Peter Whittingham. Subs; Joe Lewis, Mark Hudson, Don Cowie (for Mutch 72), Aron Gunnarsson(for Kim 79), Nicky Maynard, Andreas Cornelius (for Campbell 80) Peter Odemwingie.

Of course, we stayed up and City went down and have never looked like getting back until this season. Neil Warnock has fashioned a decent side and, with a couple of additions in January, they could well be following Wolves into the Promised Land.

Which is infinitely more than can be said about us. Keeping The Faith becomes harder by the week…..

Cardiff City Stadium Picture: ©Tata Steel Europe Ltd. If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

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